India is a large and diverse country, and I’m sure there are a lot of places on your bucket list to see. At first it can be overwhelming figuring out where to go – never-mind how to get there. Luckily for you, there are A LOT of different transportation options in India. Here is the lowdown of every mode transportation in India – including camels!
Hiring a driver may seem like a prestigious option at first – and I myself considered this the less authentic way to travel India – but it turns out that it is actually very common in India to hire a driver. A lot of my Indian friends even say that they hire a driver to take them around India when they come back to visit. However, this is for the wealthier Indians.
As much as I encourage you to try to make your own way across a country, this is actually a great option if you don’t have a lot of time. India is so massive and diverse that it is hard to fit everything in that you want to see. A friend and I hired a personal driver for five days in the province of Rajasthan to help us see everything on our bucket list in a short time. This option was a more expensive than if we had done it on our own, but you are in India so it’s still not actually that expensive.
Warning: When hiring a driver be very careful not to get scammed! I heard of many horror stories. If your ‘driver’ is picking you up from the airport make sure that they have a sign with your name on it. Do not tell them any information (such as what hotel you are at) until they refer to you by your name. I was very scared when booking a driver because it is hard to know who to trust. If you want you can visit Kuldeep and Friends Hostel and book through them. They are very reliable and offered great service. I do not get any commission through recommending them – I booked through them as well as two other couples that I met on the trip and we all got our moneys worth.
When hopping from one end of the country to another a flight may be your best option. Last-minute airplane tickets can be fairly high in price but with a bit of planning ahead of time, you can get a flight for about the same price as a train – and getting to your destination takes about 1/8 of the time.
I spent tow weeks up north and two weeks down south, so I took a flight to connect the two. I flew from New Dehli to Goa and saved myself a horrendously long train ride. It is always worth checking flight prices when interested in a far away destination because it may just be worth the price for the time you save.
Night trains are almost inevitable when visiting India. You should probably take one even if you don’t need to just because India wouldn’t be India without spending the night on a cot trying to sleep through the night on long, hot, rickety train ride.
Since you often need to cover some serious ground to get anywhere in India, night trains are the way to go. You don’t have to waste a day of your trip sitting on a train.
However, you may arrive a lit bit tired at your destination as you are less than likely to sleep like a baby on these trains.
Tip: When it comes to booking a night train it is best to buy the highest possible class that you can afford.
Here are the different classes:
Sleeper Class with AC
This class has six beds per section, three beds on top of each other. As well, there will be two beds on the outside hallway . There are no curtains or doors for privacy.
There is air conditioning in this class so you won’t roast from the heat (but no promises). As well, these seats come with a sheet and a pillow.
As this is the ‘higher class’ you will probably deal with less locals starring at you. You will likely be seated with other tourists or Indians who speak good English.
Sleeper Class: Non AC
I decided to give this class a try since it was about half of the price as traveling with AC. To be honest, the AC is worth it. About an hour into the journey I was already sticky with sweat. I remember that I couldn’t even sleep with my sleep mask because it felt like my eyeballs were sweating!
If you are in North India during the cooler season it may be more tolerable.
This class does not come with sheets or pillows.
What you need to Know About Night Trains
- Woman can book a woman’s carriage. However, the two beds across from the women’s carriage (looking directly in) still seat men for some reason
- Get to the train station early. You may think that you have plenty of time but some of the platforms go on forever! It may take you 15 minutes just to walk down the platform to your car
- If you are on a bottom bed then everyone will be sitting on your bed until it is time to go to bed
- Each section has about two power outlets
Taking the train during the day is best for shorter distances. The day trains are a great experience and I prefer them far more than buses. The trains themselves can vary greatly. Sometimes they will give you the option to buy air conditioning and other times the train just has one class so you can jump into any car.
On the trains with air-conditioning they are usually just the sleeper trains – only everyone will be up and sitting now. There is no seat designation so you just have to run around to find a seat.
One train that I took did not have different classes to choose from. It was about three hours long and had no air-con. There were no foreigners and the train was packed. Since I couldn’t find a seat I ended up just sitting by the door – and this was far more fun than having a seat! The train was leaving just as the sun was setting in the sky and it was beautiful to watch the sun setting over India as the wind blew in my face and the train clanked against the tracks.
I really liked the night buses but you will hear mixed reviews on this one. The beds seemed more comfortable and clean. It sounds bad – but this is probably because mainly tourists take the night buses. As well, each sleeper bed comes with a curtain so you get all the privacy that you need. As a woman, it was nice to fall asleep without worrying about men staring at me – like they often do on the trains. I also could control the air-conditioning and light in my own private sleeper and keep my valuables close by on the rack provided at the end of my bed.
The downfalls of the buses are that if you are going on a windy or bumpy road then it will be hard to sleep as your body is thrown around from the movement. Also, motion sickness is a lot more likely. Once concern is that there are no bathrooms on the buses, but they do make bathroom stops. So if you are suffering from Dehli Belly – avoid night buses.
Catching a local bus isn’t very fun and I always dreaded them.
There isn’t anywhere to put your bag – I always just threw mine up front with the driver. The buses are almost always full so it is hard to find a seat, especially by the time you set your luggage down. They are very hot so if you don’t find a spot by the window it will be miserable.
On the plus side, this is definitely the cheapest option for you to make your way around India. You will find with some destinations, especially those off of the beaten path, these buses are your only option. If you are sticking to major tourist routes they will have the…well, more touristy options for you.
Ahh the tuk-tuk. In case you aren’t sure if you want one they will make sure to ask you – again and again. This gets really annoying but on the plus side they are always available – and cheap!
Tuk-tuks are usually the best way to make your way around a city-especially if you are with friend because about four people can fit into one. The downfall is that they don’t have meters and it can be hard to tell if the driver is giving you a fair price. In order to not get ripped off always ask your hostel or a local before hand around how much a tuk-tuk to your desired destination should cost. Keep in mind that you will always be charged more than locals no matter how good your negotiation skills are. Don’t get into a tuk-tuk until you agree on a price first.
A tuk-tuk’s fare is per trip, not per person. Don’t let them try to trick you at the end by telling you that the price was per person. I usually just laugh at them , hand them the money and then walk away. Don’t stick around and argue if you know that they are trying to scam you.
In big cities like Delhi and Mumbai a motorbike is a terrible, terrible idea. However, there are some places in India where the roads are empty enough to ride a motorbike and it ends up being a lot more cost efficient (and more fun!) way to get around than hiring a tuk-tuk.
In Goa, my friends and I were all staying in different beach town but it didn’t matter because with our motorbikes we could just bike from beach to beach. It was very safe to drive and there were hardly any other drivers on the road.
Alternatively, you can also hire a motorbike driver to take you somewhere if you don’t need a motorbike for the whole day. These still tend to be cheaper than tuk-tuks.
I bet you thought I was running out of modes of transportation – nope! But is a boat really necessary? If you are visiting the backwaters of Kerala then it is. Waterways make up the roads in this village and you need a boat to explore. Many people rent a houseboat for the day. I rented a smaller paddle boat so that we could fit down the smaller waterways. This was definitely the most relaxing way to get around India – I just took in the scenery as I was gently paddled along.
This is not a very common option anywhere in India. In fact it’s not even an option in most places. Cities in India are very busy and crazy – not ideal or safe for riding a bike. Once you get out of the city and think that you can ride a bike you probably won’t want to anyway because it is so damn hot!
The one place that I did end up renting a bike for a day was in Hampi. It was nice to get some exercise and the breeze did feel good on my face, but I was definitely sweaty.
The heat in India can make you lazy and so you will probably be relying on other people to take you around.
Yes that’s right – camels!
When I was in Jaisalmer we went on a tour where we rode camels out into the desert. I wouldn’t recommend this as a mode of transportation because it can get a bit uncomfortable after a while. Plus, there is the debate as to whether it is ethical to ride a camel – but that is whole other blog post of it’s own. We only rode the camels for about an hour until we headed back to the ‘camp site’ for dinner and a dance show.
The ride was fun and I laughed sore-butt off as the camels snorted and spat the whole way. An hour was enough for me and I was happy to walk back into the desert at night – where we were fortunate enough to get to sleep for the night. It was an amazing experience sleeping in the vast and open desert under the large starry sky. I will write more information on this at a later date.
So there you have it – all of the ways to make your way around India! What is your favourite?